Defined, intangible is an adjective that describes something incapable of being perceived by the senses, especially in any physical state.
In basketball, it more or less has to do with the mental factors that drive or hinder your performance on the court. Heart, hustle, the willingness to sacrifice, the inner-demand to work hard. These may not have a direct impact on your stat sheet, but they make a difference in a player. Though, you can see someone diving for a loose ball. You can see someone pounding their chest, or letting out a primal scream after a dunk or a momentum-shifting basket. If there is impact in these actions, it is felt. It’s tangible enough.
So when I say Jared Jeffries is intangible, I’m not trying to speak in redundancies saying that he hustles and does the little things. We know that. That’s not why he’s intangible. He’s intangible because everything he does on the court will inevitably be dismissed as a joke. He plays with the stigma of Isiah Thomas’ lofty incompetence. For four years, you couldn’t appreciate Jeffries’ utility. Because if you tried, you were reminded of the 5-6 million dollar price tag that rode along. Jeffries wasn’t the root cause of the Knicks’ inadequacy. On the court, he was often one of the players holding it up from imminent collapse. But he was a product of New York’s reckless cap space abuse, and for four years, he was an easy goat.
And he still is. There is no way around his complete and utter lack of anything resembling an offensive game. He has “hands” like sewer rats have “super powers.” Which is to say, nothing about Jeffries makes any bit of sense. After one game with the Knicks, Jeffries posted a -1.4 PER. I could say he’s made tremendous strides in raising that number to positive marks, and I wouldn’t be wrong. He has. But even so, his PER as a Knick is still the 4th worst in the NBA of those who have played at least 20 games — only Avery Bradley, Luke Babbitt, and (duh) Jarron Collins are worse.
In what has got to be the most compelling post-trade deadline story in the NBA, Jared Jeffries has played 99 minutes and 47 seconds thus far, and has taken only four shots. He’s missed all of them. In four games, he’s scored one point. He has only taken two free throws. In a blowout against the Utah Jazz, Jeffries’ high in plus-minus was +33. He would finish the game with a +27.
27. That number is only one short of Jeffries’ total number of points for the season (28).
But Jeffries’ calling card was always defense, and really, what’s left to be said about it? He’s a great help defender mainly because he’s willing. He’s tall and long, and will always take the charge. His commitment to defense is tantamount to his commitment to sucking on offense. Both are steadfast, and equally impressive. While I thought Jeffries could’ve helped other elite teams in need of a versatile defender to round out the bench, there really isn’t another place where Jeffries would have as much of an impact. Part of the reason why the Knicks fit so well is that they already concede defeat on defense most nights. Jeffries as an interior defender has significant limitations. He has a slight frame, and definitely doesn’t possess the bulk required to guard the monsters inside one-on-one. However, as a rotational defender, he’s fearless. Watch him guard the 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 on any given possession. Watch him hustle to make sure his teammate’s man isn’t slipping through the cracks. “Glue guy” doesn’t best describe Jeffries’ game. He legitimizes a defense that too often seems to be an inconvenience more than anything.
In the first 58 games without Jeffries, the Knicks gave up an average of 105.8 points a game. In the four games with Jeffries, the Knicks have allowed 98.8. Small sample sizes are usually a huge deterrent in any realistic projections, but considering how Jeffries on-court presence positively affected the Knicks last year, this can probably be seen as more of the same. For a terrible team like last year’s, it’s easy to scoff at Jeffries’ impact. But with a playoff-bound team paying him a fraction of what he was owed last year, his worth has magnified.
Ultimately, nothing will prevent the rest of Jeffries’ career from being dismissed as a joke. He is one of the worst offensive players we’ve seen in recent years, but at least he’s aware of it, right? He’ll continue to do his damage behind the veil while we’re busy laughing at his latest blunder. Maybe that’s the way it’s supposed to be.
To be invisible in New York of all places. That’s quite a feat, no?